All the preparation has been done via a protracted pre-season campaign, nine friendlies have been played and the final training session has been held ahead of Saturday’s opening Northern Premier League West fixture at Kidsgrove Athletic.
It’s all down to who performs on the day now and Reds, like the other nineteen teams in the division, will be hoping for a winning start to the new season – their 35th campaign in the NPL.
Manager Chris Willcock has a near full squad available, although the fitness of a couple of players will be assessed before the 3pm kick-off at Hollinwood Road (ST7 1DQ).
Reds have never won at Kidsgrove – two draws and two defeats in four visits – but they have managed a slightly better record against ‘The Grove’ at Borough Park, winning twice, losing once and drawing one of four meetings.
The clubs have met twice in the North West Counties League, four times in the NPL and, most recently, twice in the FA Cup. Athletic knocked us out of the Cup three years ago, following a goalless draw at Borough Park, when they won 2-1 (after extra time) in the replay.
Since returning to the Northern Premier League in 2014, Reds’ record on the opening day has been quite good winning four times and drawing twice with that unbeaten run of six following a 2-1 reverse at Stamford seven years ago.
For those not making the trip down the M6 to Staffordshire, the Development Squad kick-off their Cumberland County League campaign against Carlisle City Development at Borough Park (2pm).